By Olayinka Oduwole
On a recent visit to Nigeria, I purchased an affordable smart phone from the popular ‘Computer Village’, in Ikeja, Lagos. As affordability has often been highlighted as one of the barriers hindering the adoption of smartphones and newer generation services in developing countries, it therefore comes as a welcome development to find out that there is a wide range of affordable smartphones targeted at the Nigeria mass market. The smart phone adoption in Sub Saharan Africa has been predicted to be around 35%.
Within the Nigeria smart phone market, there has been a proliferation of affordable phones from manufacturers like Tecno, Itel, Infinix, Samsung, Nokia, Huawei etc. This has also encouraged more indigenous companies like Imose to enter into the smart phone race. This is very encouraging as competition would only translate into a positive experience for consumers.
However, as I began to use the smart phone, I realized that the mobile phone produces heating after usage for a while. Besides heating, I was equally concerned about the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the mobile phone. This concern is borne out of the fact I have been privileged to investigate electromagnetic radiation exposure to users using mobile communication devices and network.
There is a common misconception among users’ that electromagnetic radiation from mobile station (e.g. mast, antenna) is more dangerous than that from mobile phone. This has always been an issue among users resident within developing as well as developed countries. Users tend to associate huge risks (like radiation) with visible antennas whilst associating low risks with antennas perceived as invisible (like the ones embedded in their mobile phones). This was confirmed from the findings of a European survey. Such survey could also be conducted in Nigeria and other developing countries but I doubt if the findings will be any different, considering the public outcry from residents whose homes are close to installed base stations. This is not to discard any such outcry but I think it should be thoroughly investigated through the collection of scientific data.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it has been concluded that electromagnetic radiation is possibly carcinogenic and there are currently studies investigating the long term effect of electromagnetic radiation on human health. The radiation mainly affects the head (or body) of the user. And an increase in temperature is one of the best ways for accessing the health and biological effect of electromagnetic radiation. It is for this reason that the use of ear piece has been recommended for heavy smart phone users’ as a way of mitigating electromagnetic radiation exposure. There are of course, other smart technology solutions that can help mitigate the radiation exposure.
In more advanced markets, mobile phones are subject to strict regulatory requirements like measuring and testing that the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is below the regulatory limit before allowing such phones within the market. Whilst I am happy about the decline in the price of smartphones due to the wide availability from the different manufacturers within the Nigerian Market, I think it is equally important that these phones are subject to strict regulations which would no doubt protect consumers from the hazardous effects of smart phone usage. This would also help to ensure that Nigeria, alongside other developing countries, are not perceived as a dumping ground for dangerous phones.
I therefore would first like to congratulate the bodies in charge of regulating mobile communication services like the Nigeria Communication Commission (www.ncc.gov.ng) for the adoption of policies encouraging the widespread adoption of smartphones as well as facilitating an enabling environment for indigenous companies to compete within this space. This has no doubt led to the decline in the prices of these devices. Most importantly, I would also like to implore these bodies to look into regulating smart phones made available within the Nigeria market, as a matter of urgency.